The Mariners and Patience

How did you feel about the Mariners sixteen days ago? That number may seem arbitrary, but it bears some significance. Sixteen days ago the Mariners had dropped three of four games to division rival Texas, were swept by an awful baseball team in Miami, and were on the verge of being swept by the awfulest baseball team, Houston. Even the most “true to the blue” Mariners fans had to admit their playoff odds looked bleak. At 7-13, the Mariners were desperately trying to salvage a game of the Houston series, because having twice as many losses than wins is a bad thing in baseball. Down 2-3 in the home half of the ninth, I was bracing myself for the flurry of “Mariners suck” tweets on my timeline. Then, Kyle Seager did what Kyle Seager does. His second home run of the game was of the walk-off variety, and the Mariners could go home with their heads held high knowing they only lost eight in a row instead of nine.

Now it’s May 8th, the Mariners are among the hottest teams in baseball, and are a measly two games out of first place in the AL West. Baseball gods act in mysterious ways. Hot off  Seager’s single-handed victory, the M’s took a series win in Texas, pulled off a pseudo-sweep at Yankee Stadium, survived bullpen meltdowns to win a couple revenge games in Houston, and most recently went 3-1 in Oakland to battle back to a game above .500. Just over two weeks ago this season was starting to feel a lot like the past ten seasons. Now the slate’s been wiped clean and it’s anybody’s ballgame.

There’s a few things we can learn from this young season so far:

  1. The Mariners can be good
  2. The Mariners can be bad
  3. It takes  a large sample size to judge a team’s true talent

We know the Mariners can win because they’ve done it seventeen times. When they’re on, the 2014 Mariners tease you into dreaming of a playoff berth. Not even I was immune to irrational optimism after the season opening sweep of  the Angels. During successful stretches like the one we’re on now, it’s easy to see very encouraging signs from multiple contributors. Justin Smoak is hitting from the right side and has had a knack for two-out hits. Corey Hart is blossoming into the bargain we hoped he’d be when we signed him this offseason. Roenis Elias came from nowhere to perform very respectably in the absence of Walker/Paxton/Iwakuma.

Conversely, we know the Mariners can lose because they’ve done it sixteen times. When they’re off, the 2014 Mariners tease you into dreaming of driving nails through your eye sockets. Not even I was immune to irrational pessimism after what felt like a season ending sweep to the Marlins. During losing streaks like the eight game stretch we saw in April, it’s very easy to see glaring holes in this team. Brad Miller, who was our great white hope, is channeling Brendan Ryan’s offense and Yuniesky Betancourt’s defense. I haven’t pitched since I was 12, but I’m reasonably confident I could strike out Abraham Almonte. Willie Bloomquist has been featured in the two hole multiple times.

If we zoom our scope out to encompass the entire season so far, we see the Mariners at 17-16. That’s not unbearable. That’s not outstanding. Keep in mind baseball plays the most regular season games of any professional sport at 162. There are 129 games left to be played, and it will likely take all of those to form the complete playoff picture. When the team’s looking bad, take solace in the fact that an 8-2 stretch could be right around the corner. When the team is looking good, don’t bet your rent money on a World Series victory. Baseball is a fickle creature.

 

Dustin Ryan

@CompassRumpus

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